Earlier on, I dealt at such length on Grunfeld’s equivocations on early Tibetan history and old Tibetan society that I now feel obliged to emphasize to the reader that the bulk of Grunfeld’s book deals with Tibet after the Chinese Communist invasion. It is also here, in a presentation comparable only to Houdini’s amazing trick of making a live elephant disappear on stage, Grunfeld performs a mind-boggling tour de force. He manages to write his entire account of this period without once referring to any famine either in Tibet or China, and does not even make a remote allusion to the great famine. A famine which is now generally acknowledged to be the greatest in human history, where 30 to 60 million people died and where starving people boiled and ate their own children. Furthermore this famine was not an act of nature, but occurred as result of Mao’s megalomaniac programs and the Party’s complete indifference to human life and suffering. To Grunfeld, all this never happened. Instead he regales us with heady accounts of steady progress and reforms from the first instance the Chinese took power in Tibet. A summary of these amazing accomplishments is presented in his article in New China, “… a decade earlier mutual aid teams were formed, then agricultural cooperatives, and finally, in 1965-66, people’s communes. Mechanization has begun and experimental agricultural stations have developed more resilient, higher-yield grains as well as strains of tobacco, tea, sugar beets, and a dozen vegetables, which can grow readily in the climate of the ‘Roof of the World’. Innovations such as insecticides, chemical fertilizers, irrigation, and veterinary medicine have been introduced into a land that hardly even know of their existence … In short the lot of the Tibetan people has improved immeasurably.”
Another black hole in Grunfeld’s account is the imprisoning of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans in Forced Labour Camps, and also the mass killing of Tibetans by the Chinese. Grunfeld is absolutely silent on this. China’s leading official Tibetan figure, the Panchen Lama, in his address to the Tibet Autonomous Region Standing Committee Meeting of the National People’s Congress held in Beijing on 28 March 1987, clearly stated that in his native Amdo (Qinghai) “there were between three to four thousand villages and towns, each having between three to four thousand families with four to five thousand people. From each town and village, about 800 to 1,000 people were imprisoned. Out of this, at least 300 to 400 people of them died in prison”. Nearly half the prison population.”
At the same meeting the Panchen Lama also provided specific instances of mass killings in his area. This is what he said: “If there was a film made on all the atrocities perpetrated in Qinghai province, it would shock the viewers. In Golok area, many people were killed and their dead bodies were rolled down the hill into a big ditch. The soldiers told the family members and relatives of the dead people that they should all celebrate since the rebels had been wiped out. They were even forced to dance on the dead bodies. Soon after, they were also massacred with machine guns. They were all buried there”.
Grunfeld’s silence on this issue makes his book the equivalent of a history of the American South with no mention of slavery, or a history of modern Germany without any reference to the Holocaust. Which brings up the question, is Grunfeld’s book comparable to the works of revisionist historians like David Irving who claim that the holocaust had never happened, that the gas chambers had never existed, but were invented for British propaganda purposes and then picked up by Jews to extort German and American finance for Israel? On serious reflection, I don’t think such a comparison can be made.
First of all David Irving is a real historian, whose works have been published by major publishers in Sweden, Germany and Macmillan in Britain, and not like Grunfeld’s “history” which was published by Zed Books in London, presumably some left-wing propaganda setup. Furthermore Irving is a fluent linguist and speaks and writes German like a native. In fact his knowledge of German language, history and culture is so exceptional that he was able to expose the phoney “Hitler Diaries” that the German magazine Stern had purchased and which had been publicly endorsed not only by a number of German experts but even by the historian, Hugh Trevor Roper, whom Grunfeld quotes to prop up one of his numerous falsehoods.
Also David Irving is no hypocrite or the cat’s paw of a brutal dictatorial regime as Grunfeld is. No matter how distasteful and abhorrent his views, David Irving is at least open and straightforward about them. He does not pretend that he has nothing to do with neo-nazi groups, and in fact he openly lectures at large gatherings in Germany where he is greeted with enthusiastic “Seig Heil’s” More than anything he does not pretend to be the disinterested friend of the Jews. And to credit the man, Irving does not retail mediaeval anti-Semitic vilification, like the kind that Jews poisoned wells and performed secret rituals with the blood of murdered Christian babies. Nor does he repeat racist slurs about Jews being dirty, miserly, treacherous or sub-human. All of which Grunfeld enthusiastically does, in the Tibetan context.
But I find myself unable to go on any further. I must come up for air – pull my head out of the open sewer that is Tom Grunfeld’s The Making of Modern Tibet. If the printed word could physically emit a stink, then this book would reek not only of dung and putrefaction but the charnel house as well. All the usual words of condemnation: scurrilous, disgusting, abominable, are inadequate to censure the man and his work. Once again, as I have done many times in the past, I am obliged to touch on the experiences of Lu Xun for an adequate concluding description of this deeply disturbing hate-tract and its perverted author. And modern China’s preeminent humanist and writer, a man with a lifetime experience of skewering tyrants and their toadies on his mobi, his writing brush, does not disappoint. With his withering dismissal of the writings of Zhang Shizhao – one of the more unredeemably disgusting intellectual whores in the world of Chinese letters – as the “acme of obscenity”, Lu Xun allows me conclude this piece.
August 28, 2001

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